Skip to main content
The Taming of the Shrew /

Appendix: Framing Dialogue in The Taming of a Shrew (1594)

The relationship between A Shrew and The Shrew has puzzled scholars and others from the very beginning. The two plays were both performed before 1594. For many years editors believed that A Shrew was written first, by an anonymous author or group of authors, and then expanded by Shakespeare into The Shrew. That opinion is no longer held, and it is thought today that both A Shrew and The Shrew are versions of Shakespeare’s original play. In this scenario, the “taming” plot of A Shrew is, to a limited extent, a reconstruction from memory of Shakespeare’s original play, containing a few passages that show verbal resemblances to The Shrew; the “Bianca” subplot, in contrast, has been completely rewritten, incorporating passages from plays by Christopher Marlowe. A Shrew contains material that has disappeared from the version of the play printed in the First Folio in 1623 as The Shrew: primarily, much of Sly’s commentary on the action of the play-within-the-play, the conclusion of the Christopher Sly frame, and one scene that covers the time of the first off-stage wedding. Those who argue that The Shrew as it appears in the Folio is defective point not only to these missing pieces but also to a host of loose ends and confusions in the play that are barely noticed in performance but are obvious to any editor who has tried to make sense of this text. To many editors, these omissions indicate deliberate changes (probably made by Shakespeare as he revised the play). Given the fact, though, that other Folio plays have parts missing unintentionally (for example, the opening Prologue to Romeo and Juliet did not make it into the 1623 Folio), we would argue that it is just as likely that the manuscript used to print Folio The Shrew was itself defective. We are aware that this is all guesswork, but it is guesswork founded on persuasive supporting evidence and arguments. Whatever the connection between the two plays, it is helpful to be aware of the contents of A Shrew as one studies or performs The Shrew.

Like Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (1623), A Shrew opens with two scenes that feature Christopher Sly, along with a nobleman and the nobleman’s servants. The passages from A Shrew printed below are taken from the 1594 quarto, with the spelling and punctuation modernized. Added stage directions are in half-square brackets.

A. [Compare The Shrew, Induction, scene 1.]

Enter a Tapster, beating out of his doors Sly, drunken.


You whoreson drunken slave, you had best be gone,

And empty your drunken paunch somewhere else,

For in this house thou shalt not rest tonight.

Tapster exits.

SLY  Tilly vally, by crisee, Tapster, I’ll feeze you anon.

Fill ’s the t’other pot and all’s paid for, look you, I

do drink it of mine own instigation. Omne bene.

Here I’ll lie awhile. Why, Tapster, I say, fill ’s a

fresh cushion here. Heigh ho, here’s good warm


He falls asleep.

Enter a Nobleman and his men from hunting.


Now that the gloomy shadow of the night,

Longing to view Orion’s drizzling looks,

Leaps from th’ Antarctic world unto the sky

And dims the welkin with her pitchy breath,

And darksome night o’ershades the crystal heavens,

Here break we off our hunting for tonight.

Couple up the hounds and let us hie us home,

And bid the huntsman see them meated well,

For they have all deserved it well today.

But soft, what sleepy fellow is this lies here?

Or is he dead? See one what he doth lack.


My lord, ’tis nothing but a drunken sleep.

His head is too heavy for his body,

And he hath drunk so much that he can go no further.


Fie, how the slavish villain stinks of drink!—

Ho, sirrah, arise. What, so sound asleep?—

Go take him up and bear him to my house,

And bear him easily for fear he wake,

And in my fairest chamber make a fire,

And set a sumptuous banquet on the board,

And put my richest garments on his back.

Then set him at the table in a chair.

When that is done, against he shall awake,

Let heavenly music play about him still.

Go two of you away and bear him hence,

And then I’ll tell you what I have devised.

But see in any case you wake him not.

Exit two with Sly.

Now take my cloak and give me one of yours.

The lord and a servant take each other’s cloaks.

The lord puts on the servant’s cloak.

All fellows now, and see you take me so,

For we will wait upon this drunken man

To see his countenance when he doth awake

And find himself clothed in such attire,

With heavenly music sounding in his ears,

And such a banquet set before his eyes,

The fellow sure will think he is in heaven.

But we will be about him when he wakes,

And see you call him “lord” at every word,—

And offer thou him his horse to ride abroad,—

And thou his hawks and hounds to hunt the deer,—

And I will ask what suits he means to wear.

And whatsoe’er he saith, see you do not laugh,

But still persuade him that he is a lord.

Enter one a Messenger.


An it please your Honor, your players be come

And do attend your Honor’s pleasure here.


The fittest time they could have chosen out.

Bid one or two of them come hither straight.

Messenger exits.

Now will I fit myself accordingly,

For they shall play to him when he awakes.

Enter two of the Players Sander and Tom with packs at their backs, and a Boy.

Now, sirs, what store of plays have you?

SANDER  Marry, my lord, you may have a tragical or a

commodity, or what you will.

THE OTHER  A comedy, thou shouldst say. Zounds, thou

’lt shame us all.

LORD  And what’s the name of your comedy?

SANDER  Marry, my lord, ’tis called “The Taming of a

Shrew.” ’Tis a good lesson for us, my lord, for us

that are married men.


“The Taming of a Shrew.” That’s excellent sure.

Go see that you make you ready straight,

For you must play before a lord tonight.

Say you are his men and I your fellow.

He’s something foolish, but whatsoe’er he says,

See that you be not dashed out of countenance.

To Boy. And, sirrah, go you make you ready straight,

And dress yourself like some lovely lady,

And when I call, see that you come to me,

For I will say to him thou art his wife.

Dally with him and hug him in thine arms,

And if he desire to go to bed with thee,

Then feign some ’scuse and say thou wilt anon.

Be gone, I say, and see thou doest it well.


Fear not, my lord, I’ll dandle him well enough,

And make him think I love him mightily.

Boy exits.

LORD, to Sander and Tom

Now, sirs, go you and make you ready too,

For you must play as soon as he doth wake.

SANDER  O, brave, sirrah Tom, we must play before a

foolish lord! Come, let’s go make us ready. Go get a

dishclout to make clean your shoes, and I’ll speak

for the properties.—My lord, we must have a

shoulder of mutton for a property, and a little vin-

egar to make our devil roar.

LORD  Very well. To a Servingman. Sirrah, see that

they want nothing.

They all exit.

B. [Compare The Shrew, Induction, scene 2.]

Enter two with a table and a banquet on it, and two other, with Sly asleep in a chair, richly appareled, and the music playing.

ONE SERVINGMAN  So, sirrah, now go call my lord and

tell him that all things is ready as he willed it.

ANOTHER SERVINGMAN  Set thou some wine upon the

board, and then I’ll go fetch my lord presently.

He exits.

Enter the lord and his men.

LORD  How now, what, is all things ready?

ONE SERVINGMAN  Ay, my lord.


Then sound the music, and I’ll wake him straight,

And see you do as erst I gave in charge.

To Sly. My lord, my lord.—He sleeps soundly.—My


SLY  Tapster, gi ’s a little small ale. Heigh, ho!

LORD, as Sim

Here’s wine, my lord, the purest of the grape.

SLY  For which lord?

LORD, as Sim  For your Honor, my lord.

SLY  Who, I? Am I a lord?

Jesus, what fine apparel have I got!

LORD, as Sim

More richer far your Honor hath to wear,

And if it please you I will fetch them straight.


And if your Honor please to ride abroad,

I’ll fetch you lusty steeds more swift of pace

Than wingèd Pegasus in all his pride,

That ran so swiftly over the Persian plains.


And if your Honor please to hunt the deer,

Your hounds stands ready coupled at the door,

Who in running will o’ertake the roe

And make the long-breathed tiger broken-winded.


By the mass, I think I am a lord indeed!

To the lord. What’s thy name?

LORD, as Sim  Simon, an it please your Honor.

SLY  “Simon.”

That’s as much to say “Si mi on” or Simon.

Put forth thy hand and fill the pot.

Give me thy hand, Sim. Am I a lord indeed?

LORD, as Sim

Ay, my gracious lord, and your lovely lady

Long time hath mournèd for your absence here.

And now with joy behold where she doth come

To gratulate your Honor’s safe return.

Enter the Boy in woman’s attire.

SLY  Sim, is this she?

LORD, as Sim  Ay, my lord.


Mass, ’tis a pretty wench. What’s her name?

BOY, as Wife

O, that my lovely lord would once vouchsafe

To look on me, and leave these frantic fits,

Or were I now but half so eloquent

To paint in words what I’ll perform in deeds,

I know your Honor then would pity me.


Hark you, mistress, will you eat a piece of bread?

Come, sit down on my knee.—Sim, drink to her, Sim,

For she and I will go to bed anon.

LORD, as Sim

May it please you, your Honor’s players be come

To offer your Honor a play.


A play, Sim? O, brave! Be they my players?

LORD, as Sim  Ay, my lord.

SLY  Is there not a Fool in the play?

LORD, as Sim  Yes, my lord.

SLY  When will they play, Sim?

LORD, as Sim

Even when it please your Honor. They be ready.

BOY, as Wife

My lord, I’ll go bid them begin their play.

SLY  Do, but look that you come again.

BOY, as Wife

I warrant you, my lord, I will not leave you thus.

Boy exits.


Come, Sim, where be the players? Sim, stand by

Me and we’ll flout the players out of their coats.

LORD, as Sim

I’ll call them, my lord.—Ho, where are you there?

Sound trumpets.

SYNOPSIS 1. [Compare The Shrew, 1.1, 1.2, 2.1.]

Enter two young Gentlemen Polidor and Aurelius, and a man Valeria and a Boy.

In these scenes, Aurelius and his manservant Valeria are welcomed to Athens by Polidor, who is in love with Alfonso’s third daughter. Aurelius sees Alfonso’s second daughter, Phylena, and immediately falls in love with her. He learns from Polidor that the father will not allow the two younger daughters to be wooed or married until the oldest, Kate, finds a husband. Polidor sends for Ferando, a man whom he thinks would be a good match for Kate. Aurelius, in the meantime, arranges to exchange garments and positions in life with his servant Valeria in order to see Phylena. When Ferando and his servant Sander enter, the men learn that Alfonso has already paid Ferando six thousand crowns to win Kate’s love and persuade her to marry. After a brief scolding match between Kate and Ferando, Alfonso is told by Ferando that he has won Kate’s love, and Alfonso sets the following Sunday for their wedding day. Sander plays the Fool with Ferando and then with Polidor’s boy. Ferando sets off for his country home, while Aurelius, disguised as Valeria, goes to Alfonso’s house as a musician.

C. [See The Shrew, 1.2.288 SD.]

Then Sly speaks.

SLY  Sim, when will the Fool come again?

LORD, as Sim  He’ll come again, my lord, anon.

SLY  Gi ’s some more drink here. Zounds, where’s the

tapster? Here, Sim, eat some of these things.

LORD, as Sim  So I do, my lord.

SLY  Here, Sim, I drink to thee.

LORD, as Sim  My lord, here comes the players again.

SLY  O, brave! Here’s two fine gentlewomen.

SYNOPSIS 2. [Compare The Shrew, 3.1–4.4.]

Valeria attempts to instruct Kate in playing the lute; then Alfonso’s younger daughters are wooed by their suitors. The wedding day arrives, and Ferando enters “basely attired, and a red cap on his head.” Alfonso, Kate, and others cannot believe that he plans to be married in such clothing, but he says “take me thus or not at all,” and they all leave for the church. A comic scene between “Polidor’s boy and Sander” covers the time the wedding is taking place. Ferando enters with others after the wedding and insists, over Kate’s and Alfonso’s protests, that he and Kate will not stay for the wedding dinner but will go immediately to his home. After Ferando, Kate, and Sander exit, Alfonso is assured that Aurelius’s wealthy father will soon appear to back his son’s marriage proposal. The scene then shifts to Ferando’s home, where Ferando sends back the food and tells the audience about his plan to tame Kate: “Nor sleep nor meat shall she enjoy tonight / I’ll mew her up as men do mew their hawks, / And make her gently come unto the lure.” Back at Alfonso’s home, Aurelius and Valeria have found a merchant to impersonate Aurelius’s wealthy father. At Ferando’s, Sander taunts Kate with talk of food. Aurelius brings his pretend father to meet Alfonso and to promise to give Aurelius lands and property, which Alfonso matches with an increased dowry. A haberdasher brings a cap to Kate, but Ferando sends away the man and the cap; a tailor arrives with a gown, but, after being denigrated by Ferando, it is sent away; Ferando tells Kate they will go to her father’s, but only when Kate allows Ferando to declare the time of day to be whatever he chooses. Alfonso’s two younger daughters and their lovers declare their love in high-flown language. They exit for their weddings.

D. [See The Shrew, 4.4.111 SD.]

SLY  Sim, must they be married now?

LORD, as Sim  Ay, my lord.

Enter Ferando and Kate and Sander.

SLY  Look, Sim, the Fool is come again now.

SYNOPSIS 3. [Compare The Shrew,]

On the way to Alfonso’s home, Ferando persuades Kate to call the sun the moon. They meet Aurelius’s real father, en route to see his son, and they both greet him as if he were a young maiden. He leaves them, convinced that they are mad, but Ferando is delighted with Kate’s obedience. At Alfonso’s, the weddings are over when Aurelius’s real father enters. Aurelius begs his forgiveness, but the father orders the arrest of the counterfeit father and Valeria, who run away.

E. [See The Shrew, 5.1.112 SD.]

Then Sly speaks.

SLY  I say we’ll have no sending to prison.

LORD, as Sim  My lord, this is but the play. They’re

but in jest.

SLY  I tell thee, Sim, we’ll have no sending to prison,

that’s flat. Why, Sim, am not I Don Christo Vary?

Therefore I say they shall not go to prison.

LORD, as Sim  No more they shall not, my lord. They

be run away.

SLY  Are they run away, Sim? That’s well. Then gi ’s

some more drink, and let them play again.

LORD, as Sim, giving him drink  Here, my lord.

Sly drinks and then falls asleep.

SYNOPSIS 4. [Compare The Shrew, 5.1.113–56 SD.]

Aurelius’s father is enraged against Valeria, Aurelius, and Alfonso. All the principal characters kneel to him and beg his forgiveness. He forgives them and accepts the marriage. They all exit.

F. [See The Shrew, 5.1.156 SD.]

Sly sleeps.

LORD  Who’s within there? Come hither, sirs. My lord’s

asleep again. Go take him easily up,

And put him in his own apparel again,

And lay him in the place where we did find him,

Just underneath the alehouse side below.

But see you wake him not in any case.

BOY  It shall be done, my lord.—Come help to bear

him hence.


SYNOPSIS 5 [Compare The Shrew, 5.2.]

Aurelius, Ferando, and Polidor set up a trial of their wives. Each sends for his wife, but only Kate responds by coming. Ferando sends Kate to fetch the other two wives. When they all appear, he orders Kate to “tell unto these headstrong women / What duty wives do owe unto their husbands.” With Ferando having won the wager and received additional money as dowry from Alfonso, the three couples exit, along with the other players of “The Taming of a Shrew.”

G. [See The Shrew, 5.2.206 SD.]

Then enter two bearing of Sly in his own apparel again, and leaves him where they found him, and then goes out. Then enter the Tapster.


Now that the darksome night is overpast

And dawning day appears in crystal sky,

Now must I haste abroad. But, soft! Who’s this?

What, Sly! O, wondrous! Hath he lain here all night?

I’ll wake him. I think he’s starved by this,

But that his belly was so stuffed with ale.

What, how, Sly! Awake for shame.

SLY  Sim, gi ’s some more wine. What’s all the

players gone? Am not I a lord?


A lord with a murrain! Come, art thou drunken still?

SLY  Who’s this? Tapster, O Lord, sirrah, I have had the

bravest dream tonight that ever thou heardest in

all thy life.


Ay, marry, but you had best get you home,

For your wife will curse you for dreaming here



Will she? I know now how to tame a shrew.

I dreamt upon it all this night till now,

And thou hast waked me out of the best dream

That ever I had in my life! But I’ll to my

Wife presently and tame her too,

An if she anger me.


Nay, tarry, Sly, for I’ll go home with thee

And hear the rest that thou hast dreamt tonight.

They exit.